Be prepared. Such an easy motto to follow. I had heard this quote at every single boy scout meeting in the past 4 years and yet my brain must have not clicked when I had listened to it all those times. I swear the phrase went in one ear and came out the other because in this moment, I was anything but prepared.
I was in the middle of the woods with my friend, Alejandro, and his dad. It was dark outside and a torrential downpour had started no sooner than 30 minutes ago. We were sharing a tiny blanket one of us had managed to pack in our backpacks and we had very little food to share. All our bags consisted of, food wise, was three packages of peanuts(5 peanuts per bag) and a bottle of water, that was fortunately all the way full. Also, just to make the situation even worse, the shelter that Alejandro and I tried to assemble out of twigs, had fallen apart, so it literally felt like I was being pelted by bullets. And to think this all happened just from going the wrong way on a hike.
Troop 74 had been organizing this big hiking trip for months. On this excursion, we were going to walk a bit of the trail during each day and then set up our tents when it got dark. The location of the hike, we had decided, was Deschutes National Forest in Oregon. I had always looked forward to these camping trips every July. Exploring the wilderness was exhilarating and exciting to me. Although, if I had known what was going to happen, I probably wouldn’t have been so thrilled to go.
When the day of this fascinating adventure had finally arrived, I made sure my backpack had all the equipment; A compass, a flashlight, all my clothing, a watch, a few snacks, two full water bottles, mosquito spray, a blanket, and sunscreen. From what I could see, I was completely prepared. Alejandro and his father picked me up in their massive red truck and we departed to the forest. Our troop was told by our leaders to meet at the front entrance of the park.
Alejandro’s father finally pulled into the parking lot of the trailhead after 3 hours and 32 minutes of boring car games and gazing out of the car window. I glanced up, once realizing we had arrived, and admired the green, luscious foliage that surrounded our car. Alejandro and I left the vehicle immediately so we could find where the trail began. I have to admit, the hike looked rather difficult after noticing that it traveled along a steep mountain. Luckily, I could see the pathway was guarded by a railing, so even if I did trip, I wouldn’t fall to my death off the side of the cliff.
Few minutes had passed and the rest of Troop 74 had encircled the entrance of the trail. The park ranger watched as our group grew from 10 to 23 people. One of our troop leaders did a head check, making sure all the boy scouts were there. The park ranger started speaking after he had been notified that the whole group had arrived.
“Now make sure you stay on the trail and always do a head count when you decide to stop to put up the tents for the night,” the park ranger instructed.”I can’t tell you how many times kids and even leaders for that matter, get left behind and lost on the trail. We always find them, but please be careful.”
After the park rangers helpful instructions and warnings, he let us pass through to the trail. No longer than a mile down the hike though, Alejandro, his father, Mr. McIntire(a troop leader), and I found that the rest of our troop were farther down the path than us. I decided to run up to see if I could spot the rest of the boys, but after getting down the trail a ways, I realized they were miles ahead. All I saw when I tried to spot them was a dark orange sun dissolving behind hundreds of miles of thriving Evergreen Trees. I scurried back to Alejandro and the troop leaders to tell them this news, but they seemed to be confident in knowing which way we were suppose to go. That is, until we got to a fork in the path.
It was almost 10pm when we reached this unfortunate spot on the hike. There were two ways to go, either to the left or the right. Both the trails seemed plausible as the right way, but according to Mr. McIntire, we would need to go to the left in order to stay on the correct path.
“I’m positive it’s to the left,” Mr. McIntire assured us.”I heard the park ranger tell us not to go to the right.”
“Hey, I see something shiny over there.” Alejandro pointed out. He rushed over to figure out what this mysterious item was. After a minute of dusting off dirt, Alejandro unveiled a flashlight. The device was still turned on, but it had dimmed a little, as if it had been sitting there for a couple of hours. The place where this flashlight was dug up was on the trail to the right.
“It looks like they might’ve gone this way, if this is theirs.” Alejandro said holding up the flashlight.”There was no else coming on this hike today except Troop 74 and if this flashlight had been here even for a whole day, it would’ve burned out already.”
Alejandro was right, there was no way that flashlight could’ve lasted any longer than maybe half a day. Even so, someone would’ve only had it out of their backpack and turned on when it got dark outside to be able to see where they were going. Only 3 hours ago did the sun set, which means the boys had to have gone on the trail heading to the right.
“Do you think they really went that way?” Mr. McIntire asked as he yanked the flashlight out of Alejandro’s hands.
“That’s the only explanation.” Alejandro’s father said.
“Well then that means that at least one of us is going to have to go this way and tell the rest of the troop they went the wrong way.” explained Mr. McIntire.”Do we have any volunteers to go?”
All 4 of us were quiet. You could literally hear crickets. I knew that one of the leaders would have to go at least, just because they wouldn’t want me or Alejandro going by ourselves. I definitely didn’t want to go though, even if the rest of the troop was there and I was with a leader. Something about going the wrong way gave me the heebee jeebees. Alejandro, I could tell, also didn’t want to go. When Mr. McIntire announced the plan of someone going possibly alone, his eyeballs popped out of their sockets.
“Fine, I guess I’ll go by myself.” Mr. McIntire decided. Even though I did feel a little bad having him hike alone, Mr. McIntire said that he knew his way, so I was sure he’d be able to find the troop in no time.
Onward we walked, going to the left, opposite of Mr. McIntire. It was 10:15 pm, but we had all agreed that none of us felt tired, so we thought we’d hike a bit longer. There was no harm in it anyways. The 3 of us had decided that we would just sleep in a little longer, that way it would give the rest of the troop more time to catch up. But let me tell you, we should’ve stopped at the fork in path, because the whole
situation went downhill from there.
Like I said earlier, it had started pouring down rain, so we had no choice but to get out our rain coats. For it being July, it had surprised us all that it had begun to be stormy. I looked down at my feet to see that my boots were slathered in mud. The dirt trail no longer was dirt, but merely 4 inches of mud that had managed to pile up in the last 20 minutes. The path didn’t even seem to be a path anymore, just a mudslide that had been overgrown with blackberry bushes. Wherever I stepped, I felt a thorn from the bushes jabbing into my boots.
“Boys, we should stop here, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to tolerate this weather.” Alejandro’s father declared.
“I feel like stopping would be a good option too.” I agreed.
“Who has the tent then, we need to shelter ourselves from the rain.” said Alejandro’s dad. We all stared at each other for a good minute, waiting for one of us to say we had it
“Does nobody have a tent?” asked Alejandro’s father for the second time.
“Mr. McIntire was the one who had a tent.” Alejandro told me.
“Well this situation couldn’t possibly get any worse.” I growled.
“Do any of you at least have a blanket or something to cover us?” asked Alejandro’s father.
“I think I have a small blanket.” I said. I searched in my backpack to find the desired item. When I pulled it out though, it was a lot tinier than I remembered it being. It was my sister’s blanket, from when she was a baby, that I had grabbed out of the laundry room. I had thought it was going to be roasting hot outside, so I had no concern for bringing a very large or thick blanket. But being in Oregon, I should’ve known it wasn’t always sunny outside, even in the summer.
“Does this work?” I asked, nervously showing Alejandro and his dad the blanket.
“That’s not a blanket, that’s a postage stamp.” Alejandro remarked.
“It’ll have to work, that’s all we have to shelter us.” I said.
“We could build a twig hut.” proposed Alejandro.
“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try.” I sighed.
Alejandro and I searched for sticks, twigs, and logs for only a matter of 5 minutes and all we found were 5 logs and 4 twigs. They were all muddy and sticky. We tried to piece together a shelter, but it immediately fell apart. There was nothing else we could do except get under the postage stamp of a blanket and try to fall asleep.
The night felt like it was going on for days. I didn’t get a wink of sleep, especially after the blanket was yanked off of my legs. As I sat against a big tree, I watched the sky turn from a dark gray to a lighter gray. The rain stopped, but the air was still bitter and cold. My backpack was soaking wet from last night’s weather mishap, but I still foraged through it to find any remaining food. All I found was a bag of peanuts. I decided to wake up Alejandro and his father. There was light in the sky and I figured that we should hike while it wasn’t raining. It didn’t take much to wake them up. I kicked their backs and they immediately came to life.
“I think it’d be best to hike while the weather is tolerable.” I explained. They nodded and tiredly picked up their bags.
“What way did we come from?” Alejandro questioned.
“I don’t remember,” I said.”Plus any remnants of our footsteps were probably washed away by the rain.”
“Which way should we go then?” Alejandro’s father wondered.
“Let’s go… this way.” I announced as I pointed in a random direction.
So we began slithering along on an uncharted path. We might as well have been blind.
Suddenly a choppy loud noise came from above. Alejandro and I studied the sky carefully, but nothing was there. It sounded like a helicopter, but I couldn’t see it because of the large limbs of the trees. The noise had gotten louder and it seemed awfully close to us. Then somebody tapped my shoulder. I turned around, only to find a man with a giant helmet strapped to his head and green jumpsuit fitted to his body.
“Are you guys the missing boy scouts by any chance?” he asked, nonchalantly.
“Yes, that’s us!” I screamed. Alejandro and his dad walked over to where I was to see what all the commotion was about.
“We have found the missing campers, repeat, we have found the missing campers.” the man said into a microphone that was attached to his helmet.”There is only 3 of you, right?”
“Yes, just me and my friend and his father.” I exclaimed.
“Please come with me.” he asked politely,
“Who are you?” Alejandro queried.
told us.”Everyone was looking for you guys. We saw you boys from up above in the helicopter and immediately came down.”
The man led us to a clearing in the forest no more than 5 minutes from where we had been. The helicopter sound was excruciatingly loud now, but it didn’t matter. We were saved!
After being in boy scouts for about 4 years, I have never been in a situation like this before. Being prepared seemed like such an easy motto to follow, but I have realized it is much harder than one would think it to be. I have to know my surroundings well and use the items I have to their full potential. I also need to pack things that may not even seem necessary to pack. One thing’s for sure though, I am never going hiking again without being properly prepared.